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tv   Second Look  FOX  December 4, 2011 11:00pm-11:30pm PST

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from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake rose a musical assemblage that has lasted 1010 years. we're talking about the san francisco symphony. tonight we're going to remember some of its brightest moments and brightest stars. including a seven year old boy who would grow up to be one of the 20th century premier violinist. plus the glamour of opening night and the concert hall that
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had to be fixed. it's all straight ahead on a second look. hello everyone i'm frank somerville. this month marks the anniversary of the symphony. it began with part time musicians performing fewer than a dozen times in it's first year. concerts were he'll in the daytime because most of the musicians had better paying jobs at night. in 1915 during the panama pacific international -- the locals took note of boston's superior sound and replaced an american conductor with a european. no american would be chosen for that job again until the 1990s. in 1923 it provided the stage for seven-year-old prodigy.
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he would become one of the premier violinist. bob mackenzie interviewed him two years before he died at the age of 82. >> reporter: in 1985 at the age of 70, meyuin conducted the 48th anniversary concert for the united nations in london. it was one of the crowning performances of a remarkable career. today menuin is in san francisco the city where he spent his childhood. he no longer plays his violin in public but is in great demand. his musical career is now in his 40th year. at the age of 5 he was already playing. by seven he was amazing his teachers. his immigrant russian family struggled to pay for his lessons. at age 8 he amazed the world.
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playing pieces so difficult most musicians would not dare them play in public. musicians were outstanded and some were even resentful. >> it shows the amateurty in adults that they say, how can he play that way at eight. they should ask themselves why can't i do that at 40. >> how is it that you were able to do that? can you explain it? >> i think first of all it descends on an emotional talent that is whether your parents and you have felt enough of the deep, deep emotions of life. whether they are tragic or happy. to have something that you want to express. >> reporter: as a boy he was called the greatest child prodigy since mozart. but menuin unlike some prodigies was not flash in the
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pan. he simply kept getting better. he drew crowds like a rock star. he filled halls around the world. for half a century was considered by many the world's premier violinist. >> you seem a happy man. >> i am. yes. >> and how would you explain your happiness? >> well, i'm surrounded by people that i adore, my wife first of all. good children, seven grandchildren. but also by people who trust me wherever it is in the world that is home. i find that trust is itself something so precious that to live up to it and to be worthy of their trust is one of the great motives of life. >> during his first two decades the san francisco symphony relies on wealthy donors to
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provide virtually all of it support. but with the stock market crash all of that changed. donations dried up and so did the symphony for the first time. but as the bay area billionth two bridges, the symphony was able to come back in 1935. symphony officials looked for a broader base of support so the city passed a municipal arts tax. in exchange the symphony promised to play a number of free concerts a year. a promise it still keeps at this time. here is the symphony with conductor michael s. thomas. >> ♪
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>> in january of 1937 gershwin joined the symphony for a performance before his death that year. the symphony marked what would have been gershwin's birthday with a celebration of gershwin and his music. >> ♪ still to come on a second look, a trip back in time to the 75th anniversary of the san francisco symphony. and how the symphony revived the black and white ball.
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tonight on a second look we're marking the 100th anniversary of the san francisco symphony. 25 years ago on it's 75th anniversary. we talked to a musician that had been there from the early
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days, when the symphony struggled in its toughest times. >> reporter: schneider played the violin with the symphony for 50 years before retiring earlier this year. he says the symphony is better than it ever was. >> the orchestra barely got to some concerts because we were so ill prepared and conductors came and hated to conduct us. hate conductors, soloist vowed they would never perform with us. >> reporter: high society in the eastern united states didn't recognize how great the symphony was at first. >> everyone in new york and paris were really surprised by the way we played because at this time this was really the wild west and nobody thought anybody west of the mississippi could do anything but play
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indian tunes or something. >> reporter: well david schneider has just ended his career with the symphony. wright from kansas is just beginning his. we talked to him just minutes before his very first rehearsal. >> what thoughts are running through your mind? >> i hope i can make it through without messing up. >> reporter: this was his reaction when he found out he was hired? >> i didn't know whether to laugh, cry, shout, scream, i just got a big smile on my face. this man is one of the main reasons for the sudden booth of moral. michael bloomstead. the orchestra was sailing just fine, but since bloomstead took
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over the orchestra has flown. some saying that it's going to head to the top. >> we're not trying to play longest or loudest. this is competition in another level where we compete with our own imagination. with our own ideals. >> reporter: the vast majority of musicians are the same as they've been for years. how is it that one man the conductor can make such a difference? bloomstead tried to bediplomattic. >> the orchestra is like a wonderful racehorse. it responds with the best performance only through certain signals. >> it's a good job. >> reporter: one of the symphony's best events is the black and white ball. there was a period in the 70s there was no black and white
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bag. but in the 80s the symphony came back. >> it really is the event of the year. >> reporter: people in san francisco love to dress up especially when it's for a good cause. the black and white ball was first held back in 1969. myar was one of the people that said it's time to have another one. >> we had 150 people that joined us. >> a good sign that it was time for another one. >> things got expensive so they stopped having it. >> reporter: in 1956 to help
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commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake. >> i'm so thrilled to have it revived because it was san francisco's own special symphony ball. i thought well the symphony has four movements and we have four balls, each one making with a different orchestra making a different sound with different dancers in each one. >> reporter: the 1982 version of the black and white is also one of the four balls. also held at the war memorial building. now the musical portion of the show will officially commence with a carriage ride along van nuys avenue to the ball. >> we bring in lots of people that not only come -- all these people. it's really nice. it's a little noisy. when we come back, how
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about we go to opening night in san francisco. why the symphony musicians went on strike 40 years ago.
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tonight we're marking the anniversary of the symphony of san francisco. and few nights are like opening night. here is a clip of san francisco orchestra opens nights over the years. >> reporter: that was the overture from burnstein's. when the symphony opens high society comes out. this is one of the symphony's major fundraiser. 700 people pay as much as $400 each to see and be seen. this is how the other half spends a wednesday night. arriving here by limo, sipping
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wine, wearing original paris fashion and eating off plates laidened with gifts of tiffany perfume. the ultimate embarrassment is to show up in a gown like somebody else. >> did you plan this is this. >> no. >> reporter: as is now tradition at san francisco opening, the cartier jewels glowed. car to the best -- the main attraction of the night was wearing basic black. michael shilton thomas directing the symphony in a world premier of a piece composed especially for him. the title a parade for mpt.
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opening night had its share of local celebrities who were happy to have their picture taken. >> the reality of profootball is some what tkaupting at times and i think the arts are a wonderful diversion. we're looking forward to attending the symphony. >> this is the beginning of season. it's the best to get to see everyone again. however since we had the wedding we had seen everybody any way. >> reporter: then there was the
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music. with public funding and free concerts the san francisco symphony has strived to be the orchestra for everyone in the city. back in the 60s though as the music of love took the air, the orchestra seemed to be out of touch with the times. >> it compares very well. from san francisco to the fine orchestra. you see to compare the orchestra. >> do you prefer brown or black or what? >> that interview came after symphony musicians had just come back from a strike that lasted for months. musicians were upset over low pay and a lack of benefits. >> of course i was very unhappy
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because for me support your pin, a strike is a new experience. >> not long after that, crypts would leave as the conductor. his replacement would be a young man from a hip generation. his name osawa. >> they gave me an interview in new york and he took risk to take me so i came here, that was my first guest appearance in my whole life. so i would like to say this to san francisco, it's a very sentiment. we go to the music hall that some said wasn't good for music and explain what had to be done to fix it. ok, you guys wanted a space for entertaining your friends,
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san francisco symphony. the symphony opened the season with a brand new hall. george watson was there. >> reporter: $37.5 million is a lot of money. i think a lot of people are wondering if the new davis hall is going to be worth it. esthetically they're still working on that and will be long past opening night. >> on the point of reverberation time. explain what that means. >> the preparation time is the time the sound of your voice stays alive if you talk or sing or yell. and if you say, ha. and it is absolutely as if someone pulls his hand over your mouth. there's a zero reverberation time. if you're in the bathroom and it sounds longer, it's good reverberation time. but it can't last too long because it'll be very muddy. >> reporter: no one will know
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what the reverberation time. no one will know until the conductor lifts his wand. musicians and audiences alike would suffer through performances. the problem, the acoustics were bad. so in 1990 the city began a two year project to fix those acoustics. and in 1992 they introduced a new davie hall. and we have two reports from that time. the acoustics at davies hall may not have been if best in the world. but the man who fixed it says it may have been the worse. >> the musicians had a terrible time hearing each other. if they can't hear each other and can't hear their own sound it makes it extremely difficult to play together. >> reporter: the acoustics were akin to pinballs making the noise bounce all over the city.
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making everything sound muddy and confusing. larry kerkegard and his crew of sound experts first appear on the scene. they listened to hear noises bouncing off the walls. they listened with their ears to vibrations on the stage. >> start from the bottom again and scope a little more slowly. >> and they make their own sounds to study deflection. >> bloomburgs from the concert master position to row r center. ready. >> they're simple tools that with informed listening tell us a whole lot about how to treat the space. after all the studies, after sitting amidst the musicians and rehearsals and in every seat of the hall during
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performances, gradually the solutions emerge. >> we put a ceiling where you'll be able to see that intercepts the sound, creates a ceiling over the stage that provides the useful sound being reflected between performers. each one of those disks is able to be raised, lowered, tilted, rolled in order to be able to provide sound reflections exactly as we want them. it took 10 months and 10.3 million donated dollars to make the davies hall smaller by 300 seats. to install a variety of acoustical tricks including baffles, reflectors and 60-ton sand filled sidewalks. >> the orchestra had a hard time hearing each other on stage and in the center of the orchestra center. which is supposed to be one of the best places it was a real
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problem for the audience here and the orchestra. >> i don't know if it's worth $10 million but it sound wonderful. it's a great concert. finally tonight one of the most moving san francisco symphony concerts came on september 11, 2002. marking the first anniversary of the terrorists attacks. and ken wayne was there. but the mood here soon turned from rousing cheer to reflection. some wept, others prays. and if words could not describe
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what the people were feeling, the music seemed to. >> ♪ >> rich kline is visiting from new jersey. he lost one friend in the world trade center attacks, another on flight 93. he says he was drawn here tonight by the music and the people. >> i'm here in my hotel room, it's just good to -- everybody feels the same i think that's out here. it's sad for the country but everybody's got to stay together and work through it i guess. and that's it for this week's second look. i'm frank somerville. we'll see you again next week.
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